The new novel from the acclaimed poet and publisher asks fundamental questions about love and sex, friendship and rivalry, desire and power, and the age-old dance of benevolence and attraction between teacher and student.
Sam Brandt is a long-term denizen of Connecticut’s renowned Leverett School. As an English teacher he has dedicated his life to providing his students with the same challenges, encouragement, and sense of possibility that helped him and his friends become themselves here half a lifetime ago.
Then Leverett’s headmaster asks Sam to help investigate a charge brought by one of his classmates that he was abused by a teacher. Sam is flooded with memories, above all of his overwhelming love for his friend Eddie and the support of his most inspiring mentor, Theodore Gibson.
Sam’s search for the truth becomes a quest to get at the heart of Leverett, then and now. The school has changed enormously over the years, but at its core lie assumptions about privilege and responsibility untested for more than a century. And Sam’s assumptions about his own life are shaken, too, as he struggles to understand what really happened all those years ago.
Publisher and poet Galassi's emotionally resonant latest (after the novel Muse) chronicles an English instructor's complicated relationship with his Connecticut boarding school. In 2017, Leverett senior faculty and alumnus Sam Brandt is tasked by the school's headmaster with investigating allegations that Theodore Gibson, a demanding yet beloved teacher, sexually abused students decades ago. Suppressed emotions surface from Brandt's years as a Leverett student in the late 1960s, when it was an all-boys school. A protracted flashback ensues, detailing how Sam cautiously allowed his passion for his dormmate to simmer to the surface, despite otherwise keeping his sexuality a secret. Brandt tries to reconcile his memories of Gibson's formative mentorship, which kept him mentally afloat through his school years, with the accusations levied by several of his Leverett classmates. Meanwhile, as an adult, Brandt continues to suppress his sexuality, eroding his longtime marriage to a woman. Galassi's talent for crisp and moving storytelling is again on display, elegantly turning on themes of truth, loyalty, and the ways in which his protagonist's capacity for self-deception override his desire to enjoy an "unlived life." This heartful novel packs a punch.